“I felt humiliated. Sad. Ashamed,” recalls 27-year-old Jaskaran Singh talking about life just a few months ago.
“I had a huge belly. My clothes wouldn’t fit properly.” Going out with friends was embarrassing, he added.
Singh, who has been in the UAE for a little more than three years didn’t quite realise when the pounds starting sneaking on. His job, as a security guard, meant long durations of staying still and alert. His meals were all easy-to-get options such as fried chicken, biryani, sugary drinks.
The 5-foot-10-inch Indian’s health was deteriorating; blood pressure rising, breathing becoming shallower.
And then, at 108kg, something snapped. Singh was tired of feeling tired, of feeling helpless, of seeing family and friends raise concerned eyes to his own only to have to look away; he didn’t know what to tell them, everything sounded like an excuse.
To get fit took effort alright…of the mind. “I decided that no matter what time I was done with work, I would exercise. I would run.”
But years of no fitness regime had left a mark on Singh. First, he had to learn to walk for extended periods of time. From 10 minutes to 20 minutes, he struggled. “For the first 2-3 weeks I couldn’t breathe,” he says. Exhausted he’d climb into bed each night, sore muscles crying for him to stop. And the next day with exacting determination, he would return to the path. At first he saw no change. “It was very demotivating,” he says. Then a few weeks later, the kilos began to give.
He recalls the first 2-3kgs with pride. He now began to target his eating habits. “I gave up processed sugar completely. Only natural sugar – those found in fruits, honey, those I would consume.” And he gave up fried chicken.
Breakfast: vegetable/lentils with chappati [Indian flat bread]
Dinner – boiled eggs (no yolk) + cucumber and carrot
Snacks: Fruits such as apple, low fat yogurt, carrot, watermelon
He slowly also ramped up the exercise. “In the initial days I didn’t know about warm-ups. As a result I was always in pain. Once I read more, I began to do the stretches – they helped a lot.”
He began to turn walking time in to jogging, then running time – using a combination of walk-run-walk to speed his way. Today, Singh is able to run for 40 minutes non-stop. He says he is generally more cheerful too. “I now feel very powerful. I can use the stairs. I feel like I’ve done something in life," he adds.
With the initial weight down, it time for Singh to work on more than just stamina – he’s scouting out gyms. “I will start the gym. Running is the best exercise. 4 days gym, 2 days running, 1 day rest,” he says.
The importance of exercise is easy to forget, says the young Indian. But, “Exercise is very important for everyone no matter how busy you are. It will make you active, get over your laziness.”
It did for him. Singh now weighs 79kg. Now when his family members or friends look at him, they see him grinning back. Healthier and happier than he’s ever been, Singh says over and over again: “I will never give up on fitness.”